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Dia de los Muertos

Your local library loves holidays. October ends with spooky Halloween and November comes creaking in with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Our libraries are celebrating Dia de los Muertos with art programs, taught by Rachel-Anne Palacios.


During the holiday starting–November 1 and ending November 2–families may visit the cemetery after dark and light candles.

A candle lit grave, Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations in a cemetery in Tzintzuntzan, Lago de Patzcuaro, Michoacan state, Mexico, North America

A candle lit grave, Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations in a cemetery in Tzintzuntzan, Lago de Patzcuaro, Michoacan state, Mexico, North America

Before the program, Rachel showed us her altar of pictures, art and food celebrating loved ones.

Kids made masks and skeleton puppets, using all the colors of the rainbow. The masks included jaguars, butterflies and skulls. Skulls were an important symbol for the Aztecs and other Meso-Americans. They were symbols of death and rebirth. This holiday has been reborn each year and celebrated for 3000 years!

If you would like to remember friends and family on this special day, set up an altar and make some art, yourself.

If you’re good in the kitchen you can make some sugar skulls.

Calavera de Azúcar


How to Make Sugar Skulls (Calavera de Azúcar)

Traditional Day of the Dead Sugar Skulls are decorated with a rainbow of colored royal icing.

Gel food color
1/4 cup meringue powder
6 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
7 1/2 teaspoon meringue powder
6 teaspoons water
1 pound powdered sugar
Royal Icing
Sugar Skulls (makes 4 medium 3-D skulls)

1. Mix the sugar, meringue powder and water together until all the granules of sugar are wet. Pick up a handful of the mixture and squeeze in your hand. If it holds together, its ready. If it falls apart, it will need a tiny bit more water.
2. Fill your skull mold with the wet sugar, pressing down on the sugar, compacting it as you go.
3. Fill both the front and back skull cavities with the sugar. Scrape off the excess sugar.
4. Cut a piece of parchment paper and a piece of cardboard just a bit bigger than your mold. Set the parchment paper down on top of the mold. Set the cardboard on top of the paper. Grab onto the mold and cardboard, and carefully flip the whole thing upside down. Set it on the counter, then carefully lift the mold up off the sugar skulls. The mold should pop right off. It the sugar sticks, its too wet. Scrape it out of the mold, clean the mold, and add some more dry sugar to the mixture and try molding it again. If your sugar skulls do not hold together, the mixtures needs more water.
5. Your sugar skulls now need to dry. Midway through the drying cycle you need to carefully flip them over so the back sides can dry out at well. They should be ready to decorate in 12-24 hours.
6. Make royal icing. Beat together powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water until its shiny and will hold stiff peaks.
7. Once your skulls are dried, spread a thin layer of royal icing on the flat part of the back side of each skull.
8. Allow the skulls to dry for at least an hour.
9. Your skulls are now ready to decorate. Color small bowls full of royal icing using food coloring. If you wont be using the icing right away, be sure to cover each bowl with plastic wrap.
10. Press the front and back sides together. Use your finger to wipe off the icing that oozes out from in between the two pieces.
11. Pipe royal icing onto the skulls. Any simple or elaborate designs. Get as creative as youd like and use lots of bright colors on each skull for a dramatic appearance.
12. Allow your sugar skulls to dry for several hours before using them as decorations for your Day of the Dead event.


If you would like to color and cut out a mask or skeleton, here are some possibilities.

skull1 spanish-holiday-coloring-pageskull2 day-of-the-dead-coloring-pages-461 dia-de-los-muertos-skull-coloring-pages

Kermit says, “It isn’t easy being black and white. Color me green!” 

Black Cats!

Black Cat Extravaganza!

We’ve scared up a list of books with Black Cats in them. They’re not all spooky. Some are cute, but some will give you goosebumps!

Black Cats JE 394.2646 PETERSON
Poor Goose: a French Tale J398.2 ROCKWELL
Short and Shivery: thirty Chilling Tales J398.25 SAN SOUCI
Creepy Creatures DVD J591.65 CREEPY
Halloween Origami J736.982 OWEN
Paper Crafts for Halloween J745.59416 MCGEE
Ralph Masiello’s Halloween Drawing Book J743.87 MASIELLO
Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life J808.882 DEAN
Halloween Howls: Holiday Poetry JE 811.00803 HALLOWEEN
Hallowilloween J811.54 BROWN
A Curious Collection of Cats J811.54 FRANCO
Cat Poems J811.6 CRAWLEY

Countdown to Halloween JBB EUBANK,P
Seven Orange Pumpkins JBB SAVAGE,S
Where’s Boo JBB YOON,S

The Night Cat JPB BEAMES,M
Black Cat, White Cat JPB BORANDO,S
Meeow and the Big Box JPB BRAUN,S
A Dark, Dark Tale JPB BROWN
Holly: the True Story of a Cat JPB BROWN,R
Inside a House that is Haunted JPB CAPUCILLI
The Witch of Hissing Hill JPB CALHOUN
Spooky and the Ghost Cat JPB CARLSON
Hubble, Bubble, Granny Trouble JPB CORDEROY, T
Pete the Cat JPB DEAN,J
Five Little Pumpkins JPB DEAN,J
Dog vs. Cat JPB GALL,C
The Night World JPB GERSTEIN,M
Five Black Cats JPB HEGARTY,P
Excuse me– are you a witch? JPB HORN,E
Only a Witch Can Fly JPB MCGHEE,A
Happy Halloween, Witch’s Cat! JPB MUNCASTER,H
Moonlight, the Halloween Cat JPB RYLANT,C
Scaredy-cat, Splat! JPB SCOTTON,R
Splat the Cat, What was That? JPB SCOTTON,R
Black Cat Creeping JPB SLATER, T
You and Me JPB VERDE,S
The Black Kitten Tg JPB VIZCARRA,N
Won Ton and Chopstick : a cat and dog tale told in haiku JPB WARDLAW,L
Mr. Wuffles! JPB WIESNER,D

Jenny’s moonlight adventure JE AVERILL
Spooky and the Wizard’s Bats JE CARLSON
The Bookstore Burglar JE MAITLAND,B
Friday, the Scaredy Cat JE MCMAHON,K
Amelia Bedelia Tries Her Luck JE PARISH,H
The Halloween Cat JE RICCI,C

Who Stole Halloween J Pbk FREEMAN
The Case of the Phantom Cat J WEBB,H
Cats on Track J MARTIN,L
Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of mystery and madness J POE, E
The Forbidden Library J WEXLER,D
Jenny and the Cat Club : a collection of favorite stories about Jenny Linsky J AVERILL,E
Lara the Black Cat Fairy J Pbk MAGICAL
Path of Stars J HUNTER,E
Pinky Pye J ESTES,E
Puss in Boots DVD J PUSS
The Three Golden Keys J SIS,P
Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble J BRUEL,N (MOVING UP)

Maybe you’ll see this black cat someday…..


Alley Cat by Dan Hess.

Happy World Food Day!

Today’s the day we celebrate FOOD and all the people who raise the food we eat. We thank all the farmers and their families , many of them children just like you :-)


Look how happy the kids are in these pictures. This is the joy of being outside, helping others raise and bring food onto the table–part of the world harvest.

But growing food is hard work. Many children and their families move from place to place, wherever the crops are being harvested. They have to live, go to school and make new friends in each new place. Sometimes there are no schools or the money from their work is needed by their family, so they have to leave school and work in the fields. It’s not always fun to be outside all day working.

Today, on World Food Day, let’s think of all those kids whose lives are very hard. Some of them face dangers from farm equipment and chemical sprays, or pesticides. Some of them are being held as captive workers, or slaves. No money or savings comes to them and they may have no parents to protect them. The money made from their work goes to the owners of the farms. Some companies do not care if children are sprayed with pesticides.

Luckily, the U.S. government has made stricter rules that forbid kids under 18 from working in jobs that expose them to these dangers. But there’s still more work to do around the world and here at home to protect kids who work on farms. Doctors need to be able to test for illnesses and care for those who raise and harvest crops.

The kids in the pictures below are not smiling. They need our respect and our help: respect for their rights and their family wages; help to protect them from physical harm. We can also help by working side by side and joining in the harvest. You can show your thanks on World Food Day by reaching out and making friends with farm kids.

Children love to be outside, enjoying the sunshine and feeling the earth beneath their feet. The last picture says it all. “Yeah, give me that hot juicy berry that grew right in this field! I picked it, it’s mine!”


Be Prepared for SCARED!

“It isn’t the cough that carried him off, it’s the coffin they carried him off in!”

And so October slinks in, with skeleton bones a-shakin’. Beware of knee-slapping jokes, your legs might come undone and fall right off.

The moon turns red, just like it did during the eclipse two weeks ago.

lunar eclipse

People named Edgar show up unannounced on your front porch, with a satchel of spooky books from the local library.

Don’t let him in!!!!! Bar the door! He’ll scare the socks off ya with his long sighs and sad backward glances over his bony shoulders. Pictures look this way and that whenever he walks by. Wherever he Poes, the floorboards creak and ravens croak, “Nevermore.” That is, until the house sinks into the mud and disappears FOREVER!

Above all, do not peek at his goreheap of ghastly books. You may never sleep again once you start to read about labyrinths and castles, ghost towns and graveyards, lost worlds and monster caves.

ghosttowns darklab spooky

If you really don’t want to learn about this fantastic phantasmagoria, avoid J133 or other Scary Stuff.


Just pullin’ your leg…OFF !!!! ;-) Edgar Allen NOOOOOOOO

Spotlight on Highly Anticipated Children’s Books of Fall 2015

The library houses a popular collection of new books for children. Below is a small sample of the highly anticipated children’s books published or scheduled to be published this Fall. Looking for more book suggestions? Check out the library’s online booklists for reading recommendations by grade. Or search NoveList to find read alikes of your child’s favorite book or author, or simply browse book suggestions by age, genre, subject matter, and more.

Picture Books


*Barnett, Mac. Leo: A Ghost Story.

Leo is a friendly house ghost–but when a family moves into his house, and tries to get rid of him, he leaves and roams the city looking for a friend.

*Daywalt, Drew. The Day the Crayons Came Home.

One day, Duncan is happily coloring with his crayons when a stack of postcards arrives in the mail from his former crayons, each of which has run away or been left behind, and all of which want to come home.

Henkes, Kevin. Waiting.

What are you waiting for? An owl, a puppy, a bear, a rabbit, and a pig—all toys arranged on a child’s windowsill—wait for marvelous things to happen in this irresistible picture book by the New York Times–bestselling and Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes.

*Martin, Emily Winfield. The Wonderful Things You Will Be.

Illustrations and simple, rhyming text reveal a parent’s musings about what a child will become, knowing that the child’s kindness, cleverness, and boldness will shine through no matter what, as will the love they share.

*Wood, Audrey and Don Wood. Full Moon at the Napping House.

In this cumulative tale, a chirping cricket calms a worried mouse, a prowling cat, and other restless creatures, helping them to finally fall asleep.

Early Reader


Willems, Mo. I Really Like Slop.

In I Really Like Slop!, Piggie invites Gerald to try her favorite food . . . slop. But Gerald is not so sure he’s going to like it. At all.

Juvenile Fiction


*Applegate, Katherine. Crenshaw.

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There’s no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again. Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

*Benjamin, Ali. The Thing About Jellyfish.

After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy was a rare jellyfish sting. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe…and the potential for love and hope right next door.

Kinney, Jeff. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School. (Expected Publication Date: November 3, 2015)

Life was better in the old days. Or was it? That’s the question Greg Heffley is asking as his town voluntarily unplugs and goes electronics-free. But modern life has its conveniences, and Greg isn’t cut out for an old-fashioned world. With tension building inside and outside the Heffley home, will Greg find a way to survive? Or is going “old school” just too hard for a kid like Greg?

Riordan, Rick. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1: The Sword of Summer.

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers. One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he barely knows—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. Uncle Randolph tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god. The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years. When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision. Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . .

Selznick, Brian. Marvels.

The journey begins on a ship at sea in 1766, with a boy named Billy Marvel. After surviving a shipwreck, he finds work in a London theatre. There, his family flourishes for generations as brilliant actors until 1900, when young Leontes Marvel is banished from the stage. Nearly a century later, Joseph Jervis runs away from school and seeks refuge with a reclusive uncle in London. Albert Nightingale’s strange, beautiful house, with its mysterious portraits and ghostly presences, captivates Joseph and leads him on a search for clues about the house, his family, and the past.

*Stead, Rebecca. Goodbye Stranger.

Bridge is an accident survivor who’s wondering why she’s still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody’s games — or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade?… This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl — as a friend?… On Valentine’s Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?

*Also available as an e-book from the library’s OverDrive collection

Managing Screen Time


According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children spend an average of seven hours every day engaged in entertainment media. TV, computers, tablets, cell phones, video games, and other screen media vie for our children’s time and attention. When used appropriately, media can be an effective tool for teaching and learning, but studies show that excessive and inappropriate use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.

With school in full swing, how can you ensure that you child is properly balancing recreational screen time with time spent on responsibilities at school and home? Perhaps these tips will help:


  • Discuss media behavior with your child, and create a media schedule.
    • Talking with your child about expected behaviors will teach them about media literacy and help with self-regulation. A media schedule might include the kinds of media your child interacts with, the types of activities they can engage in, and time limits, if necessary.
  • Don’t use a screen when real life will do.
    • If your child is studying leaves, for example, go outside to explore the trees around your home and neighborhood rather than using an app.

Boys Playing in the Leaves

  • Schedule designated periods of time to spend with your children without screens!
    • Your children look to you for cues on how to behave. If they see you frequently checking your phone or computer, they are more likely to adopt those behaviors as well. Make sure you are carving out time every day to focus on your relationship with your child.

Have you dealt with this issue in your family? What has worked for you? Tell us about it in the comments.

For more information on the topic, check out these websites:

American Academy of Pediatrics: Media and Children

Common Sense Media: How to Set Screen Rules that Stick

Common Sense Media: How Much Screen Time Is OK for My Kids

Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media: Technology and Family Life

Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media: How to Use Digital Media with Young Children

Boost Your Child’s Reading Confidence


Does your child struggle with reading or find it to be a chore? Try these helpful and fun tips from Margaret Hargrove of Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine to boost your child’s reading confidence and help make reading a more enjoyable experience.

  1. Make it a game.

Cuddling over a book shows your child that you’re his biggest fan. But it’s hard not to step in quickly when he struggles. What to do instead? Talk to him about the story to help him work it out, says Richard Gentry, Ph.D., author of Raising Confident Readers. Discuss the pictures, hunt for words he knows, or ask him if the story reminds him of an event that’s happened to him. Also help your child pinpoint where he’s gone wrong — see if he can spot the little word inside the larger one (“at” inside “hat”).

  1. Go to the dog(s).

Reading to a dog can help boost a child’s skills. How so? Because dogs are nonjudgmental — they can’t criticize and they can’t correct — so kids feel safe reading aloud to them. Visit the Castro Valley Library on Monday, October 5th at 6:30 or 7:00 PM to attend Paws to Read, a program where kids can read to specially trained therapy dogs (registration is required). “Kids learn best by teaching someone else,” says Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. “So whether they read to the puppy, the guinea pig, or Grandma over Skype, the unconditional positive feedback they receive will make them feel better about themselves.”


  1. Get crafty.

Add a few books you make together to the reading rotation, suggests Gentry. Your DIY book can be about trucks, pets, or another interest. Start with a few words on a page (“My cat is in the basket”), a favorite photo on each page, and a simple title (My Animal Book).

  1. Shorten sessions.

New readers can easily get overwhelmed. To figure out how long your child can last, compare his attention span when he does similar activities, like coloring, says Borba. Once you’ve got a clue, use a timer to gradually lengthen the session so that your child is reading for longer and longer stretches. “It’s like gently stretching a rubber band without snapping it,” she adds. “If your child knows he only has 15 minutes to read, he’ll be more focused and engaged — and the spurts will be more productive.”

  1. Look past books.

Adventures in reading can extend beyond books. Trips to the grocery store can be great teaching experiences, says Borba. Your kiddo can create a shopping list and find those items at the store. Little sports fans can use trading cards to discover more about favorite players. “And don’t overlook the obvious, like word games on the back of the cereal box. Kids won’t even realize that they’re learning while they eat,” says Borba.

Have you tried any of these tips? Tell us about it in the comments!


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